Looking for a cool German name to give to your new baby boy or girl? Discover the most popular boys’, girls’, and gender-neutral names (including banned names) in Germany.
Expectant internationals will be glad to hear that most common names are accepted in Germany. However, the country also has some strict naming rules and conventions in place to protect the well-being of your baby.
Names typically must be approved during the process of getting a German birth certificate. As such, parents can be overruled if they choose a name that is deemed inappropriate.
Learn more about the most common German baby names, as well as historical trends:
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Like elsewhere in the Western world, names in Germany consist of a first name (Vorname), sometimes a common name (Rufname), followed by a family name (Nachname). An example of this would be Aneliese Emma Weller.
The German alphabet has 26 letters, as well as an additional letter ß and three umlauted vowels Ä, Ö, and Ü). Certain letters are pronounced differently than in other languages. The J and W, for example, sound dissimilar to how an English speaker would pronounce them.
Germany has strict naming conventions, and baby names must be approved by the civil registration office (Standesamt). If they are unsure about your chosen name, they will consult the German Language Society (Gesellschaft für Deutsche Sprache – GfDs).
Acceptable names are listed in the International Handbook of First Names (Internationale Handbuch der Vornamen). Appropriate suggestions are sometimes included on the back of birth registration forms as well. If your baby name is refused, you can appeal or submit a new name. With each name, you have to pay a fee.
German naming restrictions
Children can be given several forenames. Often the second name is inspired by family members (e.g., opa and oma) or given for religious reasons. For obvious reasons, Germany has implemented some restrictions on first names. First and foremost, suitable German first names should not affect the well-being of the child.
Naming conventions include:
- Must be recognized as a proper name. It cannot be absurd or degrade the child in any way (e.g., King, Batman, or Dracula)
- Cannot be associated with evil (e.g., Lucifer or Adolf) or deemed religiously insensitive (e.g., Christus or Messiah)
- Cannot be a brand, surname, object, or the name of a place (e.g., Vespa or London)
- Has to indicate the child’s gender. Gender-neutral names must be followed by a second gender-specific name.
- Must not cross genders. Boys cannot be given a typical girl’s name or vice versa (with the exception of Maria, which can be placed as a boy’s second name).
In some cases, German name restrictions may be relaxed if a parent is an international. The registration office will consult your embassy to see what the naming laws are in your home country. However, this is not obligatory.
Popular first names
There are plenty of masculine, feminine, and unisex names in Germany to choose from.
Most commonly, people take their first names from:
- The Bible or saints (e.g., Christian, Benjamin, or Maria)
- Latin or Greek (e.g., Felix, Jürgen, or Ursula)
- Germanic or Slavic (e.g., Günther, Ludwig, or Wolfgang)
There are no official statistics for first names in Germany. That said, the GfDs publishes a list of the most popular names each year. As in most countries, the list of popular names changes annually and is typically influenced by trends, tradition, as well as popular sports and television stars.
In 2021, the top 10 German boys’, girls’, and gender-neutral names were:
The International Handbook of Forenames also lists names that have ‘interesting’ connotations. For example, Nazi is a Swiss boy’s name and should be approved by all registry offices in Germany. However, other parents and children might not be as forgiving.
Rare German names include:
|Bent (boys)||Slang for ‘homosexual’ in British|
|Erik (boys)||‘Plum’ in Turkish|
|Tjorven (boys)||‘Big sausage’ in Swedish|
|Fanny (girls)||Slang for ‘female genitalia’ in British|
Slang for ‘bottom’ in American
|Mona (girls)||‘Female monkey’ in Spanish|
|Sida (girls)||AIDS in French and Spanish|
When naming your baby, you should always pay attention to their initials as well. Initials such as B.T.K., S.S., S.M., W.C., and W.T.F., will give your child a hard time later in life.
History of baby names
In the early 1900s, German names with strong constants were popular. These included Friedrich, Heinrich, or Wilhelm for boys, and Bertha, Elisabeth, Frieda, and Maria for girls.
Some classical names have largely fallen out of fashion or been adapted (e.g., Elfriede, Hildegard, Irmgard, and Lieselotte). Others remained popular for several decades (e.g., Hans, Karl, Klaus, Peter, and Uwe).
Over time, the most popular names have tended to get shorter. Examples include the names Finn, Jonas, Niklas, and Tim for boys, and Lara, Lea, Mia, and Sara for girls.
Many traditional German names are making a comeback as parents search for unique and beautiful names for their little ones. These include:
How to change your name
In Germany, there are only a few ‘important reasons’ that allow you to change your name. These are listed in the Law on changing surnames and first names (Namensänderungsgesetz – NamÄndG). Instances include:
- An error was made when recording a name
- Someone has undergone gender reassignment
- Someone’s name invites puns, leads to confusion, or is insensitive (e.g., Osama)
- You’re a recently naturalized citizen who was previously forbidden from using your name in your country of origin
To change your name, you can request a name-changing form from your local registry office or citizens’ registration office. You will have to enclose:
- Copy of your registration certificate or ID card
- Birth certificate
In some cases, the office might ask for a psychological report or a certificate of good conduct.
The cost of the application can vary per region and could be anything between €2.50 and €255. If the German court rules allow your name change, you will face additional costs for official documents such as your driver’s license and passport.
If they refuse your application for a name change, you can file a formal objection or complaint with the Administrative Court (Verwaltungsgerichte).
- German Language Society – website that lists popular baby names in Germany